During a mental health fair on Saturday at Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park, students from Adagio Dance School perform an interpretive dance about working through difficult times . Multiple Virgin Islands-based organisations showcased their services at the event. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

Community members got moving on May 21 as they danced on the grass at the Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park, enjoyed a performance by students from Adagio Dance School, and joined in other family fun in celebration of mental health.

Nelville George Bronstorph, acting director at Safe Haven Transitional Centre, said the organisation believes mental health services should be accessible to all. The fair, she explained, was designed in part to showcase available options.

She noted that many clients who seek the services of the rehabilitation homeless shelter are dealing with challenges from mental health or substance abuse, and Safe Haven believes it is important to provide educational resources to the wider community.

Particularly given the turbulence of lasting hurricane damage, economic uncertainty, the pandemic and everything else happening this year, she said being able to openly discuss mental health in the community is imperative.

“There’s a stigma attached to accessing mental health services, so we want to provide a forum where you can come and nobody’s judging you,” she said.

Where to turn

The more education residents have at their disposal about the different services available to them, the easier it is to reach out when needed, Ms. George Bronstroph said.

Che Pemberton, one of the performers at Saturday’s mental health fair, said he was glad to bring some levity to the event and encourage people to embrace healthy habits like dance. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

At the fair, providers from a variety of specialties offered information for community members, including Therapy 2 Thrive, She Designed the Life She Wanted Network, Trinity Counselling and Therapeutic Services, Five Doctors Medical and Wellness Services, BVI Red Cross, the government Employee Assistance Programme, and more. Ms. George Bronstroph said that services are available to anyone contending with anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress, difficulties maintaining personal relationships, or other difficulties.

“It is very important that people get the help that they need,” she said. “If our people are well, our community is well. Persons don’t have to suffer in silence.”

For anyone who couldn’t attend, she said the Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Centre is always a good first point of contact to match an individual with appropriate support. The centre is located in the Major Peebles Wing of the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital and available at 852-7670.

“It’s so good to see how much support exists in the community,” said Marissa Stubbs, who provides psychological support through the Wellness Centre. “I think maybe people feel like there’s nowhere to go or aren’t sure what to do. But this is such an excellent event. Safe Haven brought everyone here, and it’s great that people can even just pick up a brochure, review it, then reach out when they feel more comfortable.”

Family fun included dancing in the square at the park and free balloons for attendees at the mental health fair. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

Life coach Juanita Michelle said she appreciates being able to help people focus on expressing themselves honestly. She operates digitally, offering one-on-one coaching.

“The same way that I branched out and reinvented my life, I wanted to find a way to reach people not just here, but everywhere,” she said.

Look for the signs

Especially given the challenges of the past few years, it’s important too for adults to look out for the mental health of children, Ms. George Bronstroph said.

“They express differently what they’re going through,” she said. “They may become more withdrawn, not really interact as much as they used to with their friends, spend more time by themselves, lash out, or have behavioural challenges, like they’re more easily startled or just different. Just really know your child and see when things are out of the norm.”

Therapy 2 Thrive provides services for both adults and children, particularly when it comes to learning disabilities. Owner and clinical psychologist Michelle Martin said they also provide individual and family counselling.

Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley pledged to lend his support for mental health services in his new role. He called on community members to extend extra kindness to one another during tough times, and he commended those who are supporting their family members through it all.

Former Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone concurred, saying he would continue advocating for supportive services as an atlarge member of the House of Assembly.

He added that he has been proud to support Safe Haven with the Lions Club of Tortola through the years and hopes people take advantage of the mental health-focused events being offered this year.

K’launi Williams contributed to this report.